A Lesson and a Show at TIFF’s 2013 Subscription Series

This year, the TIFF Bell Lightbox is celebrating the second and third seasons of its Subscription Series — Food on Film and Science on Film are celebrating their second seasons and Books on Film is celebrating its third season — by continuing to pair screenings of notable films with insightful lectures by experts in their fields. This year’s selections feature powerful literary adaptations, a thought-provoking look at how food shapes our lives and fascinating insider perspectives on the world of science and technology. Here is a selection of the events you can attend in April and May. Tickets for individual events are available at tiff.net/subscriptionseries.

Eleanor Wachtel, of CBC’s Writers & Company, hosts discussions with writers and filmmakers on the challenges of adapting literature into film.

Monday, April 8 – 7 p.m.
Lisa Cortés on Precious
Lisa Cortés, executive producer of the film Precious, has spent her career illuminating the stories of those marginalized by society. Ten of those years were spent working with director Lee Daniels on adapting Sapphire’s novel Push to the big screen.

The Oscar-winning film tells the story of Claireece Precious Jones, an overweight, illiterate and abused 16-year-old living in Harlem with her mother in the late 1980s. Living a life that seems devoid of any happiness, Precious finds escape in a fantasy world she creates in her imagination. Eventually, with the help of committed teachers and a social worker, she finds promise in the real world as well.

Cortés has said that one of the biggest challenges of the film was being true to the novel and ensuring that the world created in the film was just as dynamic as that created by Sapphire in her novel. Despite its dark themes, Precious is a story of hope and Cortés’s road to bringing this story to the screen is sure to be an inspiring one.

Monday, May 6 – 7 p.m.
Christopher Hampton on Atonement
An award-winning playwright, screenwriter and director, Christopher Hampton is the creative mind behind the adapted screenplays for 2005’s The Quiet American, 2011’s A Dangerous Method and 1988’s Dangerous Liaisons, for which he won an Oscar. For his work on Atonement, Hampton was again nominated for an Academy Award. Join him as he explains the process of adapting Ian McEwan’s Man Booker Prize short-listed tale of one woman’s childhood mistake and the lifelong repercussions it has for her entire family.

“The more a novel is loved, the more likely you are to step on somebody’s feet,” Hampton has said of adapting well-loved novels. For Atonement, he found himself adapting the screenplay twice, the second round of which came about after the project’s original director was replaced with Joe Wright (of 2005’s Pride and Prejudice).

Wright had a distinct vision. “He said, ‘I like the script, but do you mind starting over from scratch?’” recounts Hampton. The rest is film history.

Annabelle Waugh, food director of Canadian Living, hosts culinary experts in this series highlighting how food feeds our souls as well
as our stomachs.

Wednesday, April 3 – 6:30 p.m.
David Chang on Eat Drink Man Woman
Director Ang Lee just won an Oscar for his work on Life of Pi, but it’s his artistry in bringing the story of a top Taiwanese chef and his three daughters to the table that makes Eat Drink Man Woman (1994) an easy choice for TIFF’s Food on Film series. Main character Chef Chu channels his passions into cooking at his day job as head chef of the Taipei Grand Hotel and at home making extravagant Sunday-night dinners for his three live-in adult daughters.

These Sunday dinners serve as a venue for communication between the three women and Chu, an otherwise quiet and reserved man who just wants his daughters to find happiness and leave the home. But the girls fear leaving their widowed father alone in his old age. As the movie and the meals progress, we watch the characters’ desires unfold amidst the visual bounty of Chu’s cooking.

Journey through the sites of fine Chinese cuisine in Eat Drink Man Woman with famed Momofuku founder and head chef David Chang, whose international reputation has made the Momofuku brand one of the most praised over the past year. After the show, take a stroll down the street to Toronto’s Momofuku outpost and quench the appetite you are sure to develop watching the film.

Wednesday, April 24 – 6:30 p.m.
Aldo Sohm on Sideways
Sideways is itself a literary adaptation, but it’s not this fact that won it a spot on TIFF’s Food on Film lineup. The comedic drama follows Paul Giamatti’s Miles, a recently divorced unpublished author and English teacher, and his moderately successful, soon-to-be-married actor friend Jack on a weeklong tour of central California’s wine country. Miles is a wine aficionado looking to escape from the realities of his daily life whereas Jack is out for one last fling before his wedding. Hijinks and unexpected romance ensue against a backdrop of vineyards, cold cellars and lessons on wine.

And a lesson is just what you’ll get with Aldo Sohm, Le Bernardin New York’s chef sommelier and manager of a collection of over 15,000 bottles of wine. The winner of the World Sommelier Association’s 2008 award for “Best Sommelier in the World,” Sohm will shed some light on the world of wine appreciation using Sideways as a window into this competitive and refreshing hobby. With any luck, Sohm will also share his passion for food and wine pairings, giving audience members a lesson they can take home to their own dinner tables.

Wednesday, May 15 – 6:30 p.m.
Anita Stewart on Food, Inc.
“The battle against tobacco is a perfect model of how an industry’s irresponsible behaviour can be changed,” claims Food, Inc. It is of course referring to our power as consumers to change the unhealthy way agricultural conglomerates produce and deliver our food. This is the message taken up by the 2008 documentary, a message that continues to draw increasing attention in our fat- and sugar-saturated culture, both south and north of the border. Is cheap, fast food really worth the human and environmental costs? Judge for yourself as Food, Inc. gives you a behind-the-scenes look at industrial meat, grain and vegetable production, as well as food labelling practices.

Food activist Anita Stewart, the first Canadian to receive a master of arts in gastronomy, will guide the audience through the facts presented in Food, Inc. and enlighten viewers to how similar issues are affecting Canadian agricultural policies. If you’ve ever been concerned about how your food makes it from the farm to the supermarket shelves and into your family’s meals, this screening is
a must-see.

Host Jay Ingram of the Discovery Channel takes a look at how popular culture and science interact with film to create a world that’s not as fictional as you may believe.

Wednesday, April 10 – 7 p.m.
Dr. Allison McGeer on Contagion
Steven Soderbergh may be stepping away from directing, but over his almost 30-year-long stint in the business he has managed to create some memorable suspense thrillers. None of them are quite as chilling as 2011’s Contagion. A heavily researched medical thriller following the rapid spread of a virus to pandemic levels, Contagion took its cues from conversations Soderbergh had with World Health Organization officials and from recent scares such as the 2003 SARS epidemic. Contagion’s star-studded cast (featuring Matt Damon, Kate Winslet and Lawrence Fishburne, among others) also helps to paint a realistic picture of how such an outbreak might play out in the real world.

Following the screening, Dr. Allison McGeer, a respected Canadian epidemiologist, will be explaining how such infections spread. McGeer has served on many infection-prevention planning committees at the regional, national and international levels, is a professor at the University of Toronto and the director of Infectious Diseases Epidemiology Research at Mount Sinai Hospital, where she had first-hand experience dealing with Toronto’s
SARS outbreak.

Wednesday, May 8 – 7 p.m.
Astronaut Julie Payette on Apollo 13
Everyone knows the story of the failed 1970 Apollo 13 mission to the moon, in large part thanks to the 1995 award-winning blockbuster film of the same name. Director Ron Howard’s dramatized version of the real-life events makes the science behind space travel accessible and suspenseful and the film’s impressive ensemble cast, consisting of Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton and Ed Harris, brings the human side of the story to life. The film’s realism is also attributable to NASA’s involvement in its making (Hanks and his fellow astronauts got to attend U.S. Space Camp and filmed scenes in one of NASA’s reduced gravity airplanes).

TIFF’s special guest for the screening is Julie Payette, who became an astronaut in 1992 and was the Canadian Space Agency’s chief astronaut from 2000 to 2007. Payette flew on the space shuttle Discovery in 1999 and on the space shuttle Endeavour in 2009, both times servicing the International Space Station as the first Canadian aboard.

A trained electrical engineer, Payette has played a key role in operating the ISS’s robotic arms and will share her personal experiences of space in relation to Apollo 13 with the audience.


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